Star Wars: I, Jedi by Michael A Stackpole
(Bantam, £12.99, hardback)
Corran Horn, x-wing pilot with the elite Rogue Squadron, is torn between his duty to the New Republic, and his wife, Mirax's, desire to start a family. Fortunately his wingman, Ooryl (who also moonlights as one of the several occupational therapists in the novel), is on hand to point out that these are not necessarily opposing interests. "Zounds!" declares Corran, smacking himself on the forehead, "what a fool I've been!" and scurries home intent on an immediate act of procreation. There he discovers that Mirax has gone missing while on a pirate-infiltrating mission. Said pirates, led by the warped but devastatingly sexy admiral Tavira, are the very ones who have been so successfully and mysteriously eluding Rogue Squadron.
To scotch the pirates and rescue Mirax, Corran joins Luke Skywalker (remember him?) at the new Jedi Academy in an attempt to tap his latent Force potential.
What follows from these initial premises is very dull indeed. The greatest weakness of the book is its handling of character. Stackpole cannot convey the fact that a character feels really bad, except by having him say "I feel really bad". There is no subtlety here, only blunt, thudding declarations of emotion; regrettably the descriptions function on much the same level. It's all such a shame. The novel deploys themes from detective fiction, mysticism, military sci-fi, and psychodrama; it could have been such a rich brew. But it fails. No plot twist can redeem the cardboard quality of the actors.
Star Wars, when all is said and done, is one of the greatest cultural icons that sci-fi has ever created, unfortunately the very probable success of this book will be solely due to the remarkable power of merchandise branding (now there's a FORCE). A pity. Star Wars deserves better. So do we.
This review was first published in the British Fantasy Society newsletter, Prism, 1998.
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© Simeon Shoul 7 July 2001